By MITCH LOOPER
The Houdini Shad looks somewhat like other soft jerkbaits...until you look closer.
The tail is designed so that you can use it three different ways easily - with the full paddle type tail, a hollow paddle tail or a forked tail. Those of you who have fished with these type baits will recognize how much difference the tail makes on the action. I will give you a tip as to one way it works.
The Houdini Shad has a good-sized paddle type tail if you leave the tail intact. This tail serves as a kind of ballast. This is my favorite way to use the bait when fish are on a surface bite.
By leaving the full tail intact there is more resistance (or drag) at the tail, which means while the front of the bait moves side-to-side the tail stays put. This is perfect for walking the dog with a soft jerkbait! It is easier than you think.
I use a 3/0 to 5/0 Excalibur Tx3 Extra Wide Gap Hook (the most awesome worm hook in the world) and 10 to 25 lb Excalibur Silver Thread line for this technique, depending on the size of the fish and the amount of cover. Cast past the cover, or surfacing fish, and as soon as the lure hits the water, engage your reel, raise your rod tip to about 11 o' clock and get your line tight.
Immediately twitch your rod, bringing it up to 12 o'clock, and then IMMEDIATELY drop it back to 11 o'clock. This will bring your bait to the surface and cause it to swing to one side. Dropping your rod tip allows it to swing further to the side than if you kept your line tight. Now, get into a rhythm, and very soon you will be walking the Houdini Shad back and forth with very little forward movement. When you want to move the bait forward more give it less slack after the twitch. And, as the bait gets closer you will want to lower your rod more. So, at the beginning of the cast you would be working your rod from 11 to 12 o'clock, halfway through the cast you would be working it from 10 to 11 o'clock and closer to the boat you would work it with your rod tip down, from 8 o'clock to 7 o'clock. When a fish bites, point your rod at the fish and reel until you feel the pressure, and then sweep the rod to the side while continuing to reel. This is the best way to set the hook when you have a big piece of plastic around it.
There is no end to the tricks you can do with this bait once you have accomplished this technique. Give it a hard twitch if a fish is following but not biting. This will make the bait skip out of the water like a fleeing baitfish. If a fish blows up on it but misses the bait, give it slack and let the Houdini Shad sink. The tail, when the full paddle is intact, will wiggle back and forth as it falls. This action is really quite lifelike.
Before you make the first cast with this bait you should watch it fall beside the boat so you can see this unique action. It will convince you that it will catch fish on the fall, with no action required on your part. That way you will have the confidence to let it fall when a big one blows up on it and misses!
I encourage you to learn to fish the Houdini Shad and experiment with the tail. It may turn out to be one of the most versatile baits you own!
Mitch Looper lives in Hackett, Ark. Mitch is renowned in fishing circles as being one of the world's best trophy bass anglers.